One debate fuelled by the virus is about whether to have steamed buns and congee (porridge) for breakfast or milk and toast. It’s a serious question in China, where the government is pushing people to drink milk to get more protein, a vital ingredient in building the body’s immune system.
Parents “should prepare enough milk and eggs every morning for your children…no congee should be allowed as breakfast,” said Zhang Wenhong, a doctor at the infectious diseases department at Shanghai’s Huashan Hospital and one of China’s most outspoken critics of the nation’s diet since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Zhang’s view has some serious backing. At this year’s National People’s Congress, China’s annual meeting of parliament, a lawmaker suggested the government should make it a national strategy to encourage every person to drink at least 300 grams of milk a day – about half a pint.
The comments triggered debates on social media about whether milk provides irreplaceable nutrition, whether China’s traditional diet needs more animal protein, and how universal “lifelong milk drinking” will affect food security and the environment. The sudden focus on improving immunity could have global repercussions, from dairy farms in Australia to deforestation in the Amazon, and hurt efforts to curb climate change.
Because of its large population, China is already second to the U.S. in dairy sales and is forecast to take the top spot by 2022. It’s also the third-largest producer of cow’s milk. Yet it has a lot of room to grow. Annual per capita consumption has risen to about 34 liters, according to China’s State Administration for Market Regulation -- that’s still a fraction of the 100 liters the average Australian consumes.-ht